This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.
Two years ago this week on the National Mall, amid a sea of pink hats, a piece of music suddenly went from speaking for one to speaking for many.
Months before the fall of Harvey Weinstein catapulted the #MeToo movement into the mainstream, a song called "Quiet" caught fire overnight, becoming a global anthem for victims of sexual harassment and abuse — almost as though women were waiting the words to help them share their collective rage: "I can't keep quiet for anyone anymore."
Connie Lim, who performs as MILCK, originally co-wrote "Quiet" in 2015. She says she always viewed it as her "personal therapy song," to help her cope with having been sexually assaulted and abused when she was a teenager. Then came the 2016 presidential election.
"The rhetoric that was used to describe women really enraged me, and just kind of brought me back to those feelings of when I was younger," Lim says. "I was told I needed to 'sit properly,' and I need to 'speak less' and 'smile more' and 'lose weight' and just be this perfect little girl."
Compelled to share "Quiet" with the world, she channeled her rage into an idea: Teach the song to other singers and perform it at the Women's March in Washington, D.C., the day after President Trump's inauguration.
Lim lives in Los Angeles, so about a month before the march she put out a call to female a cappella singers in D.C. Two groups responded: Capital Blend, a professional ensemble, and the GW Sirens, a college group. After lots of emailing and Skyping to learn the song and some-in person rehearsing the day before, they put on their winter coats and pink hats and headed to the march.
"We had no idea how crowded it was going to be," Lim says, laughing.